On writing short: An interview with Chris Connolly, 2018 ALCS Tom-Gallon Award winner

Chris Connolly on raising the profile of short fiction, dealing with rejection, and winning the 2018 ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award.

What was it like winning the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award last year?

Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, and most of the feedback we get tends to come in the form of rejection emails; so getting shortlisted for an award like this – let alone winning – is really encouraging.

Why do you think awards like these are so important, particularly in highlighting the short story?

There seems to be a general sense (mainly outside of the writing community) that short fiction is in some way lesser than the novel. It’s certainly not as popular. I think a lot of this is simply down to the average reader not being exposed to short stories very much, which is a shame, as a lot of people don’t even know what they’re missing. So these kinds of awards are important, for the individual writer of course, but more so in terms of raising the profile of shorter fiction.

Who are some of your favourite short story writers at the moment?

I’m still coming to terms with reading Jon McGregor’s 2012 collection, This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You. It’s so good it’s kind of depressing! A couple of Irish writers I’m particularly looking forward to new collections from are Kevin Barry and Danielle McLaughin.

What are your three top tips when it comes to writing (and submitting) short stories?

For anyone starting out, I think the most important thing is to realise the value (and necessity) of revising and editing your stories, even when you think they’re pretty much complete. Usually, they’re not, and pretty much just isn’t good enough. In terms of submitting – get used to the aforementioned rejection, and don’t take it personally! Any story I’ve written that’s been published or won an award has also been rejected multiple times. (I counted, and ‘The Speed of Light’, which won last year, was turned down over 15 times.) Lastly, I think all writers probably worry too much about how their work will be received, which is completely natural but can be somewhat stifling… I would say: Try to ignore your potential audience – trust your instincts and write only what feels authentic and right to you.

About Chris Connolly

Chris Connolly‘s fiction and poetry has appeared in the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, Southword, and the Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction, among others, and has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio. His work has won numerous awards, including Best Emerging Fiction at the 2016 Hennessy Literary Awards, the RTÉ Francis McManus competition, and the 2018 ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award.

About the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award

The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award (£1,000) is for a short story written by an author who has been accepted for publication at least once before.

The 2018 Award was given to Chris Connolly for his short story, ‘The Speed of Light and How it Cannot Help Us’. Benjamin Myers was awarded runner-up for ‘A Thousand Acres of English Soil’. Find out about this year’s shortlistees.

Originally posted by, and reposted with permission from, the Society of Authors.

Photo © Shireen Short